Celebrate with Cava

Looking for a budget-friendly bottle of sparkling wine to ring in the New Year? Look to Spain — Cava, the country’s answer to Champagne, is a delicious and affordable alternative to French or California bubbly.

Cava comes from Penedès, a region in northeast Spain near Barcelona. It is made from three Spanish grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. It is becoming more common for Cava producers to use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two of the three grapes used in Champagne.

Like Champagne, Cava is produced by the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise). The bubbles are a result of a secondary fermentation that takes place in the bottle.

Cava can range from dry to sweet. If you prefer your sparkling wine dry, look for “brut nature” or “brut” on the label. “Seco” offers a hint of sweetness, and “semiseco” and “dulce” are the most sweet.

Open one of these bottles of Cava at your 2013 celebration:

Anna de Codorníu Brut ($15)
Anna de Codorníu was the first Cava to incorporate Chardonnay. This sparkling wine is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. Yellow apple, citrus and toasted almond aromas and flavors from the Chardonnay are balanced with floral notes from the Parellada, with a crisp and refreshing finish.

Parés Baltà Brut ($11)
This sparkling wine is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. Aromas of toast, citrus and apple introduce dry flavors of golden pear, yellow apple and grapefruit. Well-balanced acidity and small, energetic bubbles make this a pleasing sip.

Segura Viudas Aria Brut ($11)
This dry sparkling wine is 50% Macabeo, 40% Parellada and 10% Xarel·lo. Lively flavors of pineapple, pear and baked apple mingle with a touch of toasted almond and straw, culminating in a crisp and clean finish.

Poema Brut Cava ($9)
A blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo, this sparkling wine is fresh and lively with subtle citrus flavors.

A Guide to Sparkling Wine

‘Tis the season to toast with Champagne!

When you’re selecting that bottle of bubbly for your celebration there are many options besides the traditional French sparking wine.

Not sure what the differences are among all the varieties of bubbly? This guide will help explain why all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.


Champagne is sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. By national law and international treaty, only sparkling wines from this appellation may be called Champagne. There are more than one hundred Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller vine-growing producers in Champagne.

Champagne is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. With the dark skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the lack of skin contact during fermentation produces a white wine.  “Blanc de Blanc” Champagnes, meaning white from white, are made from 100% Chardonnay. “Blanc de Noir” Champagnes, meaning white from black, are made from Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two. Rosé Champagne is produced either by leaving the the skins of the black grapes in the juice for a brief time or by adding a small amount of still Pinot Noir red wine.

Champagne is made in the traditional method (Méthode Champenoise) where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle to give it carbonation. After at least a year and a half of aging (during which time the bottle is manipulated so the lees settle in the neck of the bottle), the neck is frozen and pressure forces out the ice containing the lees. After a small amount of syrup is added to maintain the liquid level, the bottle is quickly corked.

Most of the Champagne produced is non-vintage. Champagne houses will only make vintage Champagnes during exceptional years; these can generally age longer than non-vintage Champagnes and cost more. Vintage Champagnes must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from that year.

Champagnes range from dry to sweet, as indicated on the label with the following terms: Brut Natural or Brut Zéro, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Sec or Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-sec and Doux.


Crémant is sparkling wine from France that is not made in the Champagne region. There are seven appellations which include this designation in their name: Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire.

Like Champagne, Crémant is made in the traditional method. It may contain one or a blend of several grapes, as not all grapes grow in all regions. The most common grapes include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

By French law, Crémant must be harvested by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for each AOC. The wines must be aged for a minimum of one year.


Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine from the Penedès region in Catalonia. It is made in the traditional method with one or a blend of three Spanish varietals: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat may also be used. Cava can be dry or sweet, as indicated by the term found on the label: brut nature, brut (extra dry), seco (dry), semiseco (medium) and dulce (sweet).


Prosecco is a sparking wine from the Veneto region in northeast Italy. It is made from the Prosecco grape and can be both fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante). Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. This makes the wine less expensive to produce. Prosecco is labeled brut, extra dry or dry, depending on the level of sweetness (with dry having the most residual sugar).

Asti Spumanti

This slightly sweet sparkling wine comes from the Asti province in Piedmont, in northwest Italy. It is made from the Moscato grape and is low in alcohol (around 8%). This can be made in the traditional method, though usually Asti Spumanti is produced using the Charmat method. Moscato d’Asti is a lightly sparkling version of Asti. Both are often served with dessert or as an after dinner drink because of their sweetness.


This sparkling wine comes from the Lombardy region in north central Italy. It is made in the traditional method predominantly from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc), and may contain a small amount of Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). Non-vintage Franciacorta is aged for at least 18 months on lees, while vintage Franciacorta is aged for at least 30 months on lees. The sweetness is designated on the label using the same terms used for Champagne.


Sekt is sparkling wine from Germany. About 95% is produced using the Charmat method, with just a small percentage made using the traditional method. Sekt is made from Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Sometimes the wine used is imported from other western European countries.

New World Sparkling Wines

American sparkling wines may be produced in the traditional method or the Charmat method. California sparkling wines tend to be made from the Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are no minimum requirements for aging in the U.S. unlike in Champagne. Due in part to the state’s favorable climate and growing wine industry, several Champagne houses set up wineries in northern California including Moët et Chandon’s Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer’s Roederer Estate and Taittinger‘s Domaine Carneros.

Australian sparkling wine is produced using either the traditional or Charmat method. It is made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, though sparkling Shiraz is gaining popularity.

Cap Classique is a South African sparkling wine produced using the traditional method. It is made most often from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, and less often from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Tips for serving sparkling wines:

Sparkling wine should be served cold (between 45 and 48 °F), and in a Champagne flute. The shorter and wider Victorian coupe is not as ideal because it lets the aromas escape and over-oxygenates the wine.

To open a bottle of sparkling wine without spillage, place your thumb on top of the cork, wrapping your fingers gently around the neck.  Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle.  Using your other hand, twist the bottle to ease out the cork.  Make sure the bottle isn’t pointed at anyone in case the cork shoots out unexpectedly.

Italian Grapes Worth Discovering

Italian wines are among the most beloved and prized wines in the world. You can spend a lifetime enjoying Italian wines and still discover new ones – every region in Italy produces wine, and there are some 2,000 types of grapes.

Looking to go beyond your go-to Italian favorites? Here are four Italian grapes well worth a taste:


Arneis is a white wine grape from Piedmont in northwest Italy. It is most commonly grown in the Roero region northwest of Alba. Arneis is considered a somewhat difficult grape to grow; its name means “little rascal” in Piedmontese. Wines made from Arneis are dry and crisp with floral and tree fruit flavors.

Try: Demarie Langhe Arneis 2011
This wine is 100% Arneis and comes from the Langhe DOC in the Roero region. Pleasant, easy to drink and aromatic, this wine has flavors of peach, white apricot, tart honeydew and chamomile with a touch of toasted almond on the finish. ($17.99)


Perricone (pronounced pehr-REE-coh-nae) is a red wine grape from Sicily that is believed to be related to Barbera. Often used as a blending grape, Perricone produces wines that are medium to full in body with red and black fruit flavors.

Try: Castellucci Miano Perricone 2009
Made entirely from Perricone, this Sicilian wine is great with Italian favorites like spaghetti with meat sauce and pizza. The wine spent 10 months in French oak barrels, followed by six months in the bottle before it was released. The Castellucci Miano Perricone has flavors of black cherry, plum and red currant, with good acidity and gentle tannins. ($39.99)


Schioppettino (pronounced skee-OH-pet-TEEN-oh), also known as Ribolla Nera, comes from Friuli in northeastern Italy. This grape produces medium bodied red wines that have red fruit, floral and spice notes.

Try: Vigna Traverso Schioppettino 2008
This wine is 100% Schioppettino and comes from the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC. The wine spent 8 months in French oak barrels. Berry aromas introduce a palate of raspberry, plum and cassis with layers of violet and black pepper. ($42.99)


Refosco is a family of red wine grapes that come from Friuli, Gavi and Trentino in northern Italy. Wines produced from Refosco can be intense and tannic with black fruit and berry flavors.

Try: Grandi & Gabana Theor 2008
This wine is 70% Refosco and 30% Cabernet Franc and comes from the Venezia Giulia appellation. It spent 12 months aging in French oak barrels and a further four months in the bottle before it was released. The Theor 2008 has rich flavors of cherry, boysenberry, black pepper and cedar with chewy tannins and a hint of vanilla on the finish. ($14.99)

Vino Venue: Beyond a Wine Bar

Vino Venue offers a little bit of everything. It’s a wine bar; bottle shop; Mediterranean-inspired bistro; artisan marketplace; a wine and cooking school — and quite possibly, your new second living room.

The evolution of the Atlanta Wine School (which closed its location on Holcomb Bridge Road), Vino Venue can be whatever you want it to be – whether it’s a fun night out with friends or a place to learn about and taste new wines.

The main draw of Vino Venue is the Enomatic wine dispensing machines. Think of them as candy machines for adults — using a rechargeable wine card you can get a taste, half glass or full glass of more than 30 wines.

Because of the preservation system you can enjoy some incredible wines that are rarely offered by the glass. Plus with a price that varies on the size of the pour, you can still get a taste of that expensive bottle. And when you find a wine (or several) that you like, you can purchase a bottle to take home.

If you prefer table service there are many other wines to order by the glass, including some that come from kegs (and yes, they taste great). There’s also a good selection of craft beers.

The team behind Vino Venue has some of the best palates in Atlanta so you can be sure their selection of wine and beer is top notch.

Vino Venue offers a wine-friendly menu of tapas-style dishes, charcuterie and cheese. Try the Mushroom Flatbread, Duck Confit Panini, or the 24 Hour Beef Short Rib that is braised with a honey soy pinot grigio jus.

As the new home of the Atlanta Wine School, Vino Venue has an event space with a demonstration kitchen. In addition to offering wine and cooking classes, Vino Venue can be rented for private and corporate functions. Click here for a list of upcoming classes and events.

Located where Chamblee Dunwoody Road meets I-285, Vino Venue is an easy drive from all parts of Atlanta.

Vino Venue, 4478 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody, Georgia.
(770) 668-0435

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